Monday, 23 November 2015

Reflections of Art in Nature . . .

Wasn't sure whether to put this on my art blog or on here so apologies if you find this item a bit off-track but I feel the urge to indulge my arty-farty side for a couple of minutes.

Back in July I came across this unfortunate Southern Hawker in Thornley Woods Pond.

There was something about this tragic half-submerged beauty which triggered a comparison in my mind with a favourite painting of mine, the pre-Raphaelite rendering of the drowning Ophelia by John Everett Millais, which I have always found to be a very haunting image.
Though I hadn't seen the picture in a while I kept meaning to check it out, and I've finally dug an image out for comparison.

The similarities (if you ignore the fact that one features a young woman and the other a dragonfly) are intensified by the overall setting which initially sparked the comparison. Thornley Woods Pond does look quite similar to the stretch of water in the painting, with the dark shadowy trees to the right, the thick vegetation on the far bank and the blanket of green in the foreground, though this doesn't come across fully in a single cropped photo.

Thornley Woods pond - could easily have been used as the setting for Ophelia (below)

The drowning Ophelia by John Everett Millais (1851/2)

Ophelia refers to the Shakespearian character from Hamlet, who fell in the water while collecting flowers, and lay peacefully on the surface until she was eventually dragged under by the weight of her clothes.

How the dragonfly got in the water I don't know, but it was a blustery day and his wings (he was an immature male) were warped in a way which suggested an obstruction during emergence. My guess is that because of this he couldn't control his flight and a gust carried him into the pond.

The drowning Odonata by The Dragonhunter (2015)

Ophelia lies arms outstretched, resembling the outstretched wings of the dragonfly, and her dress is already half-submerged due to the weight, like the abdomen of the dragonfly.

Floating on the water are colourful flowers, in the painting they are a representation of Ophelia's garland made from the flowers she had collected, and containing red poppies which are symbols of sleep or death. The dragonfly is surrounded by colourful thallus of the duckweed.

Both are beautiful creatures in their own right, and are similarly victims of tragic accidents.

But, unlike Ophelia, I was on hand to fish out the dragonfly when I realised it was still alive, and hung him out to dry on the nearby bracken. His wings were a worry, but he was preening and vibrating them occasionally to warm up the muscles when I had to leave him.

Drying out after his ordeal - but look at the state of those wings

Lived to fight another day? one can but hope. 

If I'd had a suitable container I would have taken him home, but as it was I had to leave him hanging there, and can only hope he managed to survive, though of course even if he did, so short is the lifespan he'll have perished one way or the other by now.

There you go then, either one for the deep thinking cultured souls out there, or just a pile of self-indulgent twaddle, both opinions are valid ;-)


  1. A dragonfly rescue story with a bit of culture hoyed in. Can't be bad. I enjoyed it.

    1. Cheers John, seems a long time ago now.